Publishers’ catalogs: does anyone use these?
Presses of all types constantly bombard libraries (and scholars) with glossy and expensively produced catalogs. In my years as a librarian, these have generally been viewed by most of my colleagues with disdain, even in the days before one could pull up a publisher’s title list with the flick of a wrist. So why do they persist?
Certainly, one reason is that old habits die hard. Another is that librarians likely report, when asked on a survey or in a focus group, that they do indeed view these catalogs. Having worked in collection development at four institutions, I say bunkus to that. All it takes is a cursory glance at the trash bin next to the mailboxes to put the lie to that statement. Even if a library does use certain catalogs for its work (a rare and dying breed of library), we certainly don’t need 32 copies of it.
What is particularly comical/tragic about the junk mailing of academic libraries is that we buy an ever-increasing portion of the few monographs we still buy via approval plans, and do less and less firm ordering of individual titles. Those we do order are often ordered by scholars with specific needs who find the new titles in their field by means much faster and more reliable than scanning paper catalogs, I would bet. Apparently, publishers have an outdated view of collection work in libraries, where librarians sit and ponder catalogs, weighing one title against another. I worked at a place that approached that model (while being far more practical in reality), and in the five years since I left, even that library has gone the path of simplification.
From my point of view, this pointless waste of postage, resources, and time should stop, and should have a decade ago, if not earlier. What do other librarians reading this think?